Release Date: 2010

Developer: GAMBIT Singapore-MIT GameLab

A game prototype that explores the connection between passion, depression, and awareness.



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Elude explores the complex landscape of mood by creating a metaphorical gaming experience. The goal is to raise awareness and understanding among the friends and family members of those who suffer from clinical depression.

The Singapore-MIT GameLab created this game prototype in the summer of 2010. The lab is an ongoing collaboration between Singapore’s higher education institutions and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA. Together they’ve produced dozens of game prototypes to answer academic and game design related questions.

Elude was created to elaborate on the deeper effects of depression that someone might face. The game hopes to dispel the view that depression is simply “sadness”, but rather a more complex feeling of universal hopelessness and a failure to connect with the outside world. Through a metaphorical model of experience, Elude shows the player how the rise and fall in mood states can be experienced and changed through different perspectives.

Mood is portrayed in several ways in Elude. The outset of the game takes place in a forest meant to represent a neutral mood. The goal in this state is to climb trees and “resonate” with different passions, represented by ideas and colorful birds. As your mood rises and you resonate more with your passions, you eventually make it to the treetops and are flying through the sky. Happiness is an entirely different gameplay experience that challenges players to keep soaring upward. Eventually, your mood drops, and you fall through the sky, and literally dragged down into the depths of the earth by your depression. You must make it through and fight your way back to the top to find where you true passions lie.


National Research Foundation (Singapore), Media Development Authority (Singapore), Interactive Digital Media Research and Development Programme Office, (Singapore)

Pulse + Signal




  1. 6
    Game Developer | Total Game Reviews: 5

    Some birds seem not to work, they don’t change color but they just flicker and give no further power – bug or feature?
    And the fact that I seem to not be able to win against depression, only endure it and feel good during feel-good-times – is that your goal?

    The music during the flying part, however, is great.
    The sounds the boy makes when he is jumping fit.
    You managed to convey the feeling of depression (and joy), that worked fine.

    Last question: Is the graph you show me after playing uniquely mine or a picture that is always the same?

    In any case, playing definitely raised my compassion for those suffering from depression. Good game!

  2. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    Elude is ambitious in that it works to help explain stages of clinical depression. While the player is led to believe that their choices are within their control, it becomes clear that the end is inevitable, which is incredibly evocative and indicative of this serious disease. As a work of storytelling, this plays with the user’s expectations, perhaps even encouraging empathy with the character we learn we have little control over his fate. This forces critical consideration of the ebbs and flows of the stages of depression, which are often simplified. Everyone wants to be happy, and indeed works to be so. Though for those suffering from depression, the impedance of this is often difficult for outsiders to understand, and this interactive medium may be effective in doing so. By framing this experience as a game, the user is led to believe that there is hope, which is all the more crushing once learning the disease has more control than the player putting forth the effort. My one complaint would be that there is seemingly no way to “beat” depression, as many do, though the guided experience was an informative one. Rather, as the title suggests, those suffering merely “elude” what in reality is entirely possible to engage with. An added element in the underground stages could have addressed this. As a persuasive piece, there could have been a call to action, such as additional information about suicide help organizations. But an overall fantastic game.

  3. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    This is a review for the online game Elude. Elude is a very atmospheric platformer that serves as a metaphorical experience for the mental illness that is depression. In it you control a boy who suffers from depression and must make your way through a visual representation of his depression. The goal of the game is to raise awareness and give players a better understanding of those who suffer from depression. To do this you control the boy as he makes his way through a complacent stage, a euphoric stage, and a depressive stage. Which stages you end up in are dependent on you as the player.
    It is a very beautiful looking game. Each stage does a good job of visually representing their respective moods. The euphoric level takes place in a clear sunny sky with flowers and leaves while the depression stage heavily contrasts it with its shadowy tendrils and silhouetted terrain. The complacent levels are a good balance between the two, neither too bright nor too dark. They can however appear slightly differ, being influenced by your previous stage.
    The premise and gameplay is very simple. You guide the boy as he tries to fight off his depression and be happy. You do this jumping from branch to branch, going ever higher in your attempt to make it to the treetops. There is an optional ability to “resonate” with nearby birds which use color to represent different passions. After resonating near a bird, you are often given a short time where you are able to jump higher. However a problem I did find was the boost effect seemed random at times, and did not differ between different colored birds. There was no discernible pattern I could find in using the birds as a powerup.
    Upon reaching the top, you are presenting with a whole other gameplay experience. Your goal is to continue going up, only in a different manner. You are given the ability to soar through the sky by jumping on falling leaves and flowers. Each propel you higher and higher until eventually you are given no mor

  4. 7
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    The character in Elude is a depressed male which seems to be a teenage boy. The game is in a forest and the forest is filled with trees with long branches and occasional birds. The forest in the first level is green. The forest in the second level is black and vines rise up as you try to navigate the forest upward and pull you down into the depression. You must then restart in the first level. The birds, which are lacking in the second forest, give you energy to continue on your path. Using the spacebar and arrow keys you can navigate the forest up by jumping from branch to branch with the up arrow key, from left to right with the respective arrow keys, and you “resonate” with the spacebar whenever you see a bird. In this game you cannot defy gravity, if you fall off a branch, you fall. You also cannot defy the vines coming for you. You have to outrun or jump them in order to avoid them.
    The point of this game is help those who are depressed cope with their depression and see how they can overcome it despite the fact that it is easy to be doing well and to fall back into the depressed state (second forest). The birds that you resonate with are passion and the more passion you have the closer you can get to happiness which is above the trees. That is why they give you more energy. The point is to make is to the top of the forest where the state is happy and at all costs avoid the bottom of the forest which is you depression. From this game, because it has the elements of meaningful play (the relationship between player action and system outcome, that relationship being discernible and integrated to a larger context), the player can start to understand and develop a drive for defeating obstacles. Players gain a method and a visual representation for coping and success, which turns into real life goal: battling and overcoming their depression

  5. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    Elude is a great example of turning video games into something more then just a form of entertainment. The idea of using this interactive media as a tool to inform and educate people on any subject is a excellent and bold step in the right direction. The depressing experience they are giving you can be portrayed in the form of a video but it wouldn’t do it nearly the justice as having the the ability to control the individual yourself. This enhances the experience by giving you the sense of actually trying to control the ups and downs of depression rather than simply observing a transition. Although the conrols are simple, the game takes some getting used to in terms of what you are able to do in each environment since each area of the game has different mechanics at work. Each area gives you control over the progression of the experience although I’m pretty sure you could just stand still and let each of the timed areas advance you to the next stage of depression. The whole thing is linear and I would’ve liked to have seen a few options in terms of where you can go in reference to the levels of depression. Also, maybe alternate endings to the experience of depression, seeing as how my own ethics don’t have any impact on the gameplay or direction. I would like to give props to the art in this game as it was really what sold the whole mood of the game. The color pallet used is appropriate for each stage of depression as well as the objects seen in every level. Having the "carpet being pulled from underneith you" moment at the height of happiness begins the downward spiral into depression. This leads to the ever present sense of impending doom characterized by the tenticles that keep pulling you back into the darkness. Their goal was to inform people how depression felt in the minds of the developers and I think they did a wonderful job achieving that goal. Although the ending was too absolute, I think their "graph" at the end of the game sent a strong message.

  6. 7
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I played the game Elude. Elude was an interactive game that focuses primarily on kids dealing with depression The game takes place in a forest and the goal is to have the young kid jump from tree branch to tree branch until he reaches the "glory land". This game gets tricky at times and to help you there is a bird that gives you boost ups that will rejuvinate the boy. In the game there are different settings that make up different levels to help the player realize the goal of the game. The higher you rise, which includes "peddle-hopping", ultimately means the better the player is doing in the game. If you aren’t related to the illness in any way, there isn’t much of a meaning in playing the game besides understanding what it feels like to be depressed. The game is meant to accomplish the player having a better understanding about the illness of depression and what it truly means to people. There aren’t many rules to the game, and for the most part the player is always in control of the moves he can make and the rules within the game. I would consider this game amongst the criteria of "critical play" after reading Salen and Zimmermans article and reviewing the term and what it means. Although the meaning only pertains to depressed people and those studying the symptom, it does give those people a better understanding of what the illness really does to people. Overall, I enjoyed the game, and although the goal of the game is bland, it did give me a better understanding of the material and readings we have been going over in class.

  7. 7
    Tom Mowbray
    Total Game Reviews: 30

    To me, Elude is both art and game. Most of the game evokes a dark mood with the dark environment and dark ambient music. Then there are the birds with which we can resonate; evoking positive connections with other beings and positive emotions. We can get quite high in the trees by jumping and approaching our bird friends, sometimes liberating them to flight. Eventually we can get on-top of the trees and win the game with happy music and flowers; the darkness gone. An uplifting psychological transformation!

  8. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    Elude is a great game that visually represents the struggle of depression one might have during their lifetime, especially those who suffer from manic depression. The player plays within a "normal" state, where he must "resonate" which could be a metaphor of connection in which he uses to connect with the birds all around the area, that change into colored birds that represent life and passion, which grant him power-ups of speed and heightened jumps – which might represent yields of energy and the progression towards happiness. Eventually, after collecting enough birds, which are used to get to the top of the forest, the player then must jump atop falling flowers/leaves and continually go up and up, which may represents his journey to happiness, but as he goes up, it is continually difficult to stay there and continue, eventually, he falls and then goes back to his "normal" state, the forest, and eventually the background becomes eerie and dark, and dark talons come and take him into the ground, which represents his descend into depression; a dark, black, hopeless place. Overall, the player tries to keep going up and up and reach that "happiness", without falling into the devoid abyss of depression.

    The visual metaphors used in this game are allegorically powerful and very easily and effectively portray the environments of happiness and depression.

    I enjoyed the games never-ending pursuit and struggle of reaching happiness whilst avoiding depression, but I would of liked to have had a back-story or explanation of the character’s disposition – instead of simply being a representation of a struggle between those two mental states. Overall, this game does a brilliant job in portraying happiness and depression and the constant struggle of these two mental states in a visual way.

  9. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I don’t know about enjoying this game, exactly, but I certainly felt the difficulty of attaining "happiness," how the higher you got, the harder it was to keep climbing (which is true of depressives, but less normals), and the difficulty of functioning in the ‘depressive’ state. The inevitability of the crash helped underscore this.

    As a game, it suffers a bit from the need to model the thing it is modeling, therefore I would consider it more of a simulation than a true adventure, even though the format is adventure. All in all, well done: beautiful graphics, sounds, and excellent and simple communication of the point.

  10. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 3

    Unfinished or prototype games tend to get a bad rep amongst gamers. One surely cannot blame them when some of the most infamous games of all time can be considered unfinished, like Sonic ’06 or E.T. for the 2600, but some can be so good that you can’t wait to see the finished product. They can provide such meaningful play through a use of mechanics as metaphor in spite of their current state that one has to wonder how they could improve. If there is one thing I can say about this game, it is that it has accomplished its goal. This work actually got me to want to do research on its topic, and to that I give the devs a hearty ‘bravo’ as well as a ‘congratulations’ for being able to get me emotionally invested while I went into the experience uncharacteristically resistant to exploring the medium of interactive experiences. I will argue the sound design needs a bit of work, it was a bit jarring to have the character almost humorously moan, but the visual aspects were very well done and helped immerse me in the experience. The gameplay is varied with set-pieces that did grab my focus and make me ask ‘what is happening?’ I certainly recommend it if you have the time, and who knows, you might decide to look more into depression like I did.

  11. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    Its a short simple game, takes only about eight minutes to play. However they are a very meaningful ten minutes. The game uses symbolism very well in an attempt to teach you about depression, without slapping you upside the head with knowledge and facts. Its always interesting to see how passion can help you escape depression as well and how there are high and low points of depression, but in the end without help depression will overcome you. The music for the game is great it really helps to set the mood, definitely turn your volume up for this game. The game has beautiful, yet simplistic graphics. Also I’m not sure if this is a feature or a bug, but I found often in my first run through the birds would flicker the graphics for calling back, but not trigger the sound file or animation. Overall the game was short but full of meaning, and for a free educational web game it’s hard to not recommend this game. My suggestion is for anyone who has a few minutes of spare time should definitely play this game.

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